Let’s talk culture.
Business culture experts agree: If you’ve been leading an organization for five years or more and don’t like its culture, you need only take a look in the mirror. You created it. Or failed to recreate it. You can’t blame your predecessors, your employees, or the Human Resources department. It falls squarely on you.
The same is true with your mental culture. What you believe about yourself, the challenges you face, and your vision for your future is yours to own. And yours alone. This past year of journaling has brought a fresh awareness to my need to tend to my own mental culture. I discovered that I had let some sloppy habits of thinking occupy me. Instead of “taking every thought captive” as the Bible suggests (2 Corinthians 10:5), I allowed my mental culture to deteriorate; my thinking to go unchecked. One morning as I was journaling I became aware of the cesspool of my negative thinking. Destructive “self-talk” was coming on so fast and so vicious that I decided to record every flagellant word; not to reinforce my self-abasement, but to identify the corollary affirmations I needed to believe. It was time to confront my negative thinking and recreate my mental culture.
Whether in business or a in socio-ethnic group, every culture changes slowly. That’s true of our mental culture as well. It takes slow deliberate steps to change the way our thinking. There’s no formula. Everyone’s situation will be different. Nevertheless, there are some questions that are worth repeatedly asking:
- Am I telling myself the truth? This was the key question I had to confront that morning in my journalling. There’s a difference between brutal honesty and brutality. Honesty has improvement as its goal. Brutality is bent on destruction. I crossed the line from honest reflection to conspiratorial self-diminishment. As the modern proverb goes, “Don’t bet against yourself. You risk winning.”
- Am I taking in truth? An intentional diet of truth is necessary to maintain a vital mental culture. There’s no greater source of truth than the Bible. In the past, I read it frequently, most often to prepare a message from it. Now I read it habitually. In ten minutes a day, I work through the entire Bible in a year. It’s my most reliable diagnostic on the state my mental culture. An internet search on Bible reading programs will reveal one that will work for you.
- Am I surrounded by positive influences? My friends and advisors have become indispensable in helping me recreate my mental culture. They help me get outside of my frame of thinking and evaluate things from different perspectives. Most of all, they encourage and support me. If you’re not surrounding yourself with people that challenge and encourage you, your mental culture may be stagnating. As Jim Rohn puts it, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
- Am I taking deliberate steps to improve? Culture change requires deliberate action. I must be willing to not only evaluate what I’m doing, saying, and thinking, but also to identify alternative behaviors and commit to implementing them. When confronted with a choice to make, one of my friends asks himself an important question: “Is what I’m contemplating doing going to make me more like the man I want to become.”
- Am I acting and speaking positively to others? I’ve found I’m more likely to enjoy a day when I begin it with a commitment to act and speak positively toward others. It’s far too easy to just plow into my list and look upon others as a means to getting things done. When I remember the lesson of the Onion Seller and why I’m here, I’m more likely to notice others, respond to their needs, offer a smile, or even tell a joke. That singular commitment often makes me feel more exuberant, less stressed and more confident as I take on my day.